“Siri!” I bellowed. “Is there such thing as a right to literacy?”
During a time when half of the country is in a desperate search for answers to life’s most basic questions about humanity’s most basic rights, Siri is about as useless as Michigan’s state department of education. The state that borders four of the five Great Lakes, houses the ghosts of Motown past, and home to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently argued away its responsibility to serve the agency of the very citizens dependent on it.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of Detroit public school students cited a “‘lack of textbooks and basic materials; overcrowded classrooms; failure to address students’ specific learning needs; lack of English Language Learner instruction; and unqualified staff,’ and ‘unsafe temperatures in the classroom’ where ‘students frequently can see their breath in the winter and are subjected to 90-degree heat in the summer.”
Only the tin man or a federal judge could side with the state who successfully defended its right to fail the children of Detroit and railroad their lives for the foreseeable future. Michigan is now the official state where children, like those in Detroit, have no “right to literacy.” Those are the exact words of the judge that ruled in the case. Meanwhile, “[h]igh school students spend months struggling to read books designed for third- and fourth-grade reading levels.” according to Michael Jackman of the Detroit Free Press. In 2015, ninety-three percent of Detroit Public Schools eighth graders scored below proficient on NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress).
In keeping with the anti-choice crowd’s commitment to keeping families shackled to failing environments, Michigan upped the ante by sanctioning the failure of the state to adequately equip and educate Black and Brown low-income students. Reducing schools to holding cells and teachers as guards. Detroit schools are legally pre-incarceration prep facilities. Prison has no literacy requirements.
So as you celebrate Independence Day and partake in the celebratory reading of the Preamble and Bill of Rights, be thankful that your education afforded you that opportunity. Understand that you are for whom a more perfect union was formed, that the general welfare was more selective than promised, and the Blessings of Liberty and Posterity don’t cover all God’s children. As my friend Lane Wright noted, “literacy is virtually synonymous with education.” Without reading, what is an education? Without an education, there is no freedom – no independence.
For your edification, take a look at the list of articles below regarding the state’s absolution from any accountability to students in impossible learning environments.
Federal judge dismisses suit over literacy rights in Detroit – The Detroit News